QF's Specialized Education Programs Empower Young People with Autism

QF's Specialized Education Programs Empower Young People with Autism

Qatar Living
By Qatar Living

As awareness of autism has grown, there has been a notable shift towards understanding and accommodating the needs of individuals with the condition. But has this increased awareness resulted in improved integration and support for them in society?

Fatima Hassan Al Rumaihi is the mother of Dana Al Kuwari, a 17-year-old student with autism at Awsaj Academy, part of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Pre-University Education (PUE).

Speaking about how she first realized that her daughter had autism, she says: “I noticed that my daughter wasn't communicating clearly like her friends which prompted me to seek medical advice. Upon her diagnosis, I wasn't fully aware of autism, so I started educating myself.

“We began working on her communication skills when she was two years old, and since then, there has been a significant shift in our family's understanding of autism. We now understand her needs better, indicating that increased awareness can facilitate integration and change perceptions."

She explained that many people believe that individuals with autism prefer not to interact with others, but this is a common misconception. “This is not the case,” she says. “Dana is social and enjoys communication. I've noticed that the more she interacts with others, the more her skills improve.”

Dana has been at Awsaj Academy since she was 14 after her mother began searching for an educational environment that was better suited to her daughter’s needs. “With her transition to Awsaj Academy, I noticed a significant improvement in her behavior. I was delighted to see how quickly she adapted to the new environment as she began to interact more and showed greater interest in her studies.

“The continuous encouragement developed her social skills, while positive interaction with her peers helped boost her self-confidence.”

Dana quickly left a strong impression on her teachers and classmates. "Everyone was amazed by her abilities in reading, and she demonstrated a deep understanding of the subjects as she mastered calculations and solved complex mathematical problems with ease. She participated in theatrical plays at school, and even began assisting her teachers in the classroom, driven by her desire to become an educator one day.

"She has grown into a confident young woman, supporting her peers and radiating love to everyone around her,” her mother says, explaining how, with Dana set to graduate this summer, her experience at Awsaj Academy has helped to prepare her for the world beyond.

Sara Al Khalifa, the mother of Nasser Al Khalifa, a 9-year-old student also at Awsaj Academy, recalls noticing changes in her son when he was a baby. “He didn't respond to his name or communicate visually. I felt something was wrong, but none of my concerns were taken seriously until I took him to the doctor when he was 18 months old.

“Initially, doctors thought that Nasser’s difficulties in communicating were due to his young age, but tests eventually led to his diagnosis of autism.”

Al Khalifa enrolled her son at the Early Learning Center at Qatar Academy, part of QF’s PUE, where the teachers were supportive but indicated the possibility of him being behind his peers. For this reason, she transferred him to Awsaj Academy, which houses a team of specialized therapists and educators.

"Nasser faced significant challenges in communicating, and every day was a struggle for him to express even his basic needs,” Al Khalifa says. “But continuous support at home and from his teachers at school played an effective role in Nasser's skill development. The individualized approach adopted by the school helped him start expressing himself using complete sentences, reflecting significant progress in his communication skills."

Al Khalifa pointed out that Nasser has keen attention to detail and possesses a natural talent for organizing things, noting that the classroom environment at Awsaj Academy provided him with the perfect opportunity to hone these skills. She attributed this to the commitment of the teachers and therapists in providing him with the necessary support.

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